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SPEAKOUT: Is A Two Percent Increase in Education Funding Reasonable?

Since 2009, the school system as absorbed $24 million in reductions, according to CCPS officials.

SPEAKOUT: Is A Two Percent Increase in Education Funding Reasonable?
Carroll County Public School Superintendent Steve Guthrie, anticipating a reduction in state funding between $2 million and $3 million, said there is no more fat to trim from the budget. He said he has nowhere left to cut except programs and positions. 

"I'm not trying to scare the public, I'm trying to be realistic," Guthrie said. "Do I take 20 teachers or do I take Outdoor School? I'm not saying that’s my decision, I'm just saying I need input. We have to have discussions about what’s going to be cut if we don’t get revenue."    

Guthrie recently introduced his proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, which will begin July 1. In the presentation he laid out several funding scenarios, one of which includes a two percent funding increase from the county. 

Before presenting the budget, Guthrie explained that since 2009 the school system has absorbed $24 million in spending reductions. The reductions, according to CCPS, include:
  • The elimination of 199.1 full time positions
  • Reduction of school maintenance projects
  • Elimination of 40 buses
  • Elimination of after-school community learning centers
  • The freezing of employee salaries five of the last six years
"I can't continue to reduce pockets of money that are already gone -- $24 million of it," Guthrie said. 

Guthrie explained that the process to create the proposed budget begins in August. He said he and his directors go through every line of the budget looking for two things: where the system needs to improve -- where students are being underserved, where state requirements need to be met -- and where cuts could be made. He said he then meets with principles and goes through every budget line at the school level. 

Guthrie said his team is taking a longer term approach to budget planning.

"There is no way we can make up where we need to be in one year and I understand there are economic conditions so we need to take a longer term approach to the budget," Guthrie said.

According to Guthrie, his budget must account for mandatory inflationary increases, staffing increases to meet the needs of underserved programs and address employee workload, moderate employee compensation and offsetting the decreases in state funding. 

In the proposed budget presentation, four county funding scenarios were presented: 
  • $161 million: If the county funds at Maintenance of Effort (the minimum amount of funding based on state law), that would mean a 1.53 percent decrease in funding
  • $162 million: This is the amount the county approved for 2015 education funding last year, this would be a .92 percent decrease in funding from fiscal year 2014
  • $165.1 million: This would represent a one percent increase in funding over 2014 and would allow the school system to avoid using the fund balance for ongoing expenditures
  • $166.8 million: This would represent a two percent increase in funding over 2014 and would allow the system to maintain or even make progress in several key areas. 
Board of Education member Jennifer Seidel said that Carroll County is at the point where the cuts are directly impacting the student's classroom experience. 

"At this point we are literally taking things away from our students," Seidel said. "Not that students didn’t feel the impact before but now we’re literally taking programs, opportunities, from our children."

What's Next?
Guthrie said that his staff will have a better idea of state funding levels in February. He made it clear that the budget that has been presented is his proposed budget -- it is a working document and he is seeking community feedback on it. He emphasized that this is not a request for funding at this point.

On Jan. 22, there will be an administrative board meeting at 5 p.m. followed by a public hearing on the Superintendent's proposed fiscal year 2015 operating budget. The public is encouraged to attend this event. Other public hearings will be announced.    

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